Pakistan's Glass is Half Full on its 63rd Independence Day

The devastating floods in Pakistan have dampened the spirits of its people on its 63rd independence day this Aug 14, 2010. All official events marking the day have been canceled as the nation mourns the death of at least 1700 of its citizens and finds itself overwhelmed by the monumental relief and rescue efforts aimed at tens of millions of people across three provinces.

As the scope and scale of the disaster becomes apparent, the response from Pakistani government and the international community has been very slow and inadequate. Coming on the heels of continuing terrorist violence and a slow economy, the floods have further challenged even the greatest optimists in Pakistan.



While it is urgent to cope with the flooding crisis at hand as effectively as humanly possible, it is even more important to keep the faith and remain optimistic about the future of Pakistan in its most difficult hour. And I do see some key trends to be optimistic about Pakistan. Here is the list as I see it:

1. Pakistan is well on its way to becoming an urban middle class society. The country is already more urbanized with a larger middle class than India's as percentage of the population. In 2007, Standard Chartered Bank analysts and State Bank governor Dr. Ishrat Husain estimated there were 30 to 35 million Pakistanis earning an average of $10,000 a year. Of these, about 17 million are in the upper and upper middle class, according to a recent report.

The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan's gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.

2. There is an unstoppable mass media revolution sweeping the nation. It began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.

3. With the popular civil society movement for restoration of democracy and rule-of-law in 2007-2008, political activism by the middle class has been on the rise in Pakistan. The nation has very energetic political talk shows on dozens of TV channels, and a very active blogosphere. With only about 20 million internet users in a population of over 160 million people as of 2010, it is among the most politically active nations online, according to Huma Yousuf, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Pakistan.

4. For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. The extraordinary increase in funding helped establish 51 new universities and degree awarding institutions during 2002-2008, tripling university enrollment (which had reached only 135,000 from 1947 to 2003) to about 400,000 in 2008, establishment of a powerful digital library which provides free nation-wide access to every student in every public sector university to 45,000 textbooks/research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals.

According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. The number of papers published by Pakistani scientists reached 4300 in 2007 (For comparison purposes, India-based authors published 27000 papers in 2007, according to Science Watch). Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. According to Pakistan Software Export Board, Pakistani IT industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.

5. While Pakistanis are poor, they are still better off than than their neighbors, according to a recent Oxford report on multi-dimensional poverty.

OPHI 2010 country briefings on India and Pakistan contain the following comparisons of multi-dimensional (MPI) and income poverty figures:

India
MPI= 55%,Under$1.25=42%,Under$2=76%,India_BPL=29%

Pakistan
MPI=51%,Under$1.25=23%,Under$2=60%,Pakistan_BPL=33%

Lesotho MPI=48%,Under$1.25=43%,Under$2=62%,Lesotho_BPL=68%

China
MPI=12%,Under$1.25=16%,Under$2=36%,China_BPL=3%

Among other South Asian nations, MPI index measures poverty in Bangladesh at 58 per cent and 65 per cent in Nepal.

6. UNDP publishes the Education Index which is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to read and write, while the GER gives an indication of the level of education from kindergarten to postgraduate education.

On this UNDP education index, Pakistan scores low at 0.665 and ranks 137, but it is still ahead of India's score of 0.638 and ranking of 142nd on a list of 176 nations.

7. Pakistan is blessed with many social entrepreneurs who are engaged in activities ranging from microfinancing to enable small entrepreneurs to providing solutions such as clean water, solar lighting, setting up schools, etc. to help fill the vacuum left by the government. These people believe in lighting candles instead of cursing darkness.

Summary:

While I recognize that Pakistan in its current state faces many difficult crises and falls short of the expectations of many in dealing with them, I do believe that Pakistanis have what it takes to move forward as an urban middle class nation capable of dealing with its problems. Its glass is half full, and all it takes to fill it up is the will to do it....and I expect that when the going gets tougher, the tough will get going in Pakistan to meet the challenges. I'll conclude here by leaving you with the following question: If not now, when? If not us, who?

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Decade of Urban Middle Class Growth in Pakistan

Urbanization in Pakistan

Higher Education Reform in Pakistan

High Cost of Failure to Aid Pakistan Flood Victims

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

TEDx Karachi Inspires Hope

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
A pre-requisite for a responsive and accountable democracy is a substantial middle class population.

An ADB report on Asia's rising middle class released today confirms that Pakistan's middle class now is 40% of the population, significantly larger than the Indian middle class of about 25% of its population.

The other significant news reported by Wall Street Journal today says the vast majority of what is defined as India's middle class is perched just above $2 a day.

Most of this middle class growth in Pakistan occurred on Musharraf's watch.
Riaz Haq said…
Here is a quick comparison of different sectors of the economy in India and Pakistan in terms of employment and GDP contribution:

Country....Agri(emp/GDP)..Textiles..Other Mfg..Service(incl IT)

India........60%/16% ...........10%/4%.....7%/25%...........23%/55%

Pakistan......42%/20%...........12%/8%......8%/18%...........38%/54%



Assuming India's PPP GDP of $3.75 trillion (population 1.2 billion) and Pakistan's $450 billion (population 175 million), here is what I calculated in terms of per capita GDP in different sectors of the economy:

India vs. Pakistan:

Agriculture: ($833 vs. $1,225)

Textiles: ($1,242 vs. $1,714)

Non-Textile Mfg ($11,155 vs $5,785)

Services ($7,246 vs $3,654)

It shows that Indians in manufacturing and services sectors add more value and produce higher value goods and services than their Pakistani counterparts.

The income range in India is much wider from $883 to $11, 155 accounting for the much bigger rich-poor gap relative to Pakistan's range from $1225 to $5,785.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Wall St Journal report on World Well-being Gallup survey that puts Pakistanis ahead of Indians:

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveals that only about 21% of people consider themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Around 1000 people over the age of 15 were asked whether in their lives they felt they were “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering,” measured on a scale from zero to 10. Anything seven or above was considered as thriving, according to the methodology used in the study.

India fared worse than average. Based on the findings, it ranked 71st in the list, with only 17% of respondents reported as thriving. (This was in line with the broader Asian average).

India’s neighbor Pakistan, despite its more volatile political and economic situation, ranked 40th, with 32% of the people describing themselves as thriving.

This category means more than just general wellbeing, and includes better overall health, measured in terms of fewer sick days, less stress or sadness, and more happiness and respect.

Alarmingly, in India 64% of people saw themselves as struggling. The survey describes people who fall into this category as being more stressed, more concerned about their economic wellbeing and less healthy, in terms of their lifestyle and eating habits.

The Danish lead the wellbeing list with 72% falling into the thriving category, while Chad ranked lowest, with only 1% describing themselves as such. Americans ranked average, with 59% of them thriving and only 3% suffering.

China, despite its impressive GDP figures, didn’t do that well, with only 12% of people describing themselves as thriving.

While there were gaps between developed and developing countries, a lot also depended on a country’s political situation and natural disasters, the survey shows. For instance, Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake claimed the lives of up to 250,000 people, those in the thriving range are only 2%.

Overall, the survey findings reveal how GDP figures alone are not sufficient to measure a country’s wellbeing. (This comes close to Gross National Happiness, which the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously adopted in the 1970s.)

“As the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed earlier this year, leaders should not rely on GDP alone as an indicator of how well their countries and their citizens are doing. Monitoring and improving behavioral economic measures of wellbeing are important to helping leaders better the lives of all their residents,” the survey reveals.

Consultant of psychiatry at New Delhi’s Moolchand Medcity, Dr. Jitendra Nagpal held a similar view. In an emailed response to India Real Time, Dr. Nagpal also agreed that nations whose people claim to be happy may or may not be economically sound. Dr. Nagpal added that happiness is more about the ability to do what you want to do, rather than fulfilling life’s basic needs.
Riaz Haq said…
#Muslim #Mosque Shown As Noise Pollutant In #India's Class 6 Textbook. Class 9 Textbook Refers to Jesus as "Demon".

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/mosque-in-class-6-textbook-shown-as-noise-pollutant-sparks-controversy-1719533?site=full

A science textbook prescribed for Class 6 in certain schools under ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) board has identified a "mosque" as a source of noise pollution, sparking a row.

An illustration on the chapter on pollution shows a train, car, plane and a mosque with symbols depicting loud sound. A man in the foreground is seen grimacing and covering his ears.

The ICSE says the board did not publish or prescribe these textbooks, and it is up to the schools to deal with the issue. "If any book with objectionable content is being taught at certain schools, it is for schools and publisher to ensure such a thing does not happen," news agency Press Trust of India quoted Gerry Arathoon, chief executive and secretary of the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, as saying.

After social media users launched an online petition, demanding the book be withdrawn, the publisher acknowledged the mistake and apologised. He has also assured that the illustration will be removed in subsequent editions.


Over the last few months, content considered objectionable made its way to several textbooks, raising concerns about what students are being exposed to. Last month, controversy started after a Class 9 Hindi textbook was found to refer to Jesus Christ as a demon.

In April, a Class 12 textbook on physical education suggested feminine proportions of 36-24-36 as being ideal. A Class 4 Environmental Studies textbook, while educating students on the importance of breathing, gave a practical example that shows how children can suffocate a cat to death. Another book said meat-eaters cheat, lie and commit sex crimes.

Popular posts from this blog

China Sees Opportunity Where Others See Risk

Smartphones For Digital & Financial Inclusion in Pakistan

Economic Comparison Between Bangladesh & Pakistan